She was pleasant. Elderly Catholic lady in the hospital, but telling me she had finished with church when she left school. Church and school were combined and she hadn’t really been interested. But she still remembered the Hail Mary, she said, smiling. Strange, she thought, that the words had stayed within her over the years and occasionally she would say them.
When I returned a few days later I brought her a rosary. She laid it out on her bed and began making shapes with it. She smiled as she did so – she was a little girl again, making and unmaking shapes with the rosary. “Thank you,” she said, “you have brought back memories for me.”
The following time she was very much weaker. She smiled, but no more, and the following week she was deeply asleep. I asked one of the nurses who told me the end was very near – even this might be the last sleep. The lady had not spoken since the previous day. She had no family.
I anointed her and said the prayers for the dying. I finished by saying the Hail Mary slowly, and as clearly as I could, into her ear. She smiled, nodded slightly, resettled into her sleep. She died a couple of hours later.
Our Lady was there. It was a peaceful death. She and I knew what the words of the only prayer she remembered meant “and at the hour of our death.”
Do you pray the Hail Mary? All of it, bits of it, the rosary, bits of it? Try this. Take your rosary. Let your fingers touch the beads and at each one say “Hail Mary” and the name of someone who comes to your mind. Every bead for someone different, including you, and simply “Hail Mary”.
You might bring the whole world into your prayer each time. You do not know who will make an appearance, but from your rich memories they will come – not always pleasant to remember, but still, you can make them prayer. The rosary will shape your prayer for you. It might be exciting, troubling, boring, painful, joyful.
Memories are our life alive. What each rosary bead might awaken in you . . . at prayer with Our Lady.
God bless you,
(10th November 2019)